I was watching the news tonight. I'd been at a stressful meeting all day, and was feeling emotional. And then there was this item on a news programme. A woman was appealing for help to find a house that could be rented by her children. (Note: She is living in Christchurch, where rental properties are now scarce, following the earthquake.) Her sons are in their fifties, but both are intellectually impaired, with the mental age of toddlers. This poor lady, so well spoken and so loving, needed to find a house for them to live in, after they have to evacuate their current property for it to undergo earthquake repairs. Sadly, she felt that she had been turned down by landlords once they became aware of the condition of the two brothers.
They have full-time around-the-clock care, but still this woman was the main person in their lives, their caregiver, their protector and protector. She's probably about my mother's age, and she talked about how it was her duty to look after them. From the moment they were diagnosed, she shrugged, she knew it was her duty to do the best by these boys. "That's what we do, when we decide to have children." The two brothers were looking at her, and her husband (not the men's biological father, but certainly their "real" one as he had been with them since they were little), with such love and adoration.
Okay, by now I was in tears. This wonderful woman had done everything for her sons. She had no choice, but she was still doing everything. But neither she nor her husband are young anymore, and she won't be able to be their protector and defender for ever. Not only will she not have the support of her sons when she needs it, but she will have the worry about how they will go on. I was in tears at the thought of how these men will cope and deal with the loss of their mother, whether now or in 20 years.
A friend (who also is unable to have children) said to me last year, when a New Zealand couple lost their IVF-conceived triplets in a mall fire in Qatar, "what we went through wasn't as bad as what those parents are dealing with." I wasn't prepared to get involved in a "pain olympics" kind of discussion, but acknowledged their terrible terrible loss. But last night, watching that item of the woman and her sons, I knew that I felt luckier than her. Yes, she loved her sons. Yes, she has no doubt had many happy times with them. But the price she has paid for that. Oh, the price ...